Budget Battles Dominate Debate in Washington, D.C.

Budget Battles Dominate Debate in Washington, D.C.

The elections of 2010 were historic in terms of the number of newcomers that were voted into office, with many of the rookie lawmakers swept into power with the promise to cut government spending.  Now those election promises are being confronted by the reality of the modern lawmaking process in the nation’s capital.  The debate over government spending is at the forefront and will continue to dominate as Members of Congress and the President look to cut spending (and find agreements on what to cut) while at the same time addressing the overriding issues of the slowly recovering economy.

On March 4, the current law funding the government will expire. To address this issue and keep the government’s doors open, the House of Representatives worked through over 600 amendments to pass a bill that will keep the lights on while also cutting $61 billion of funding through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.  Unfortunately, some of these cuts come to programs supported by SEMI and its member companies, such as nearly $1.7 billion in cuts to clean energy research— including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.  The bill also reduces funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by almost $350 million and reduces funding for National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) by $162 million below FY 2010.

The House bill now heads to the Senate, where it is sure to be changed by the Majority in that chamber who has gone on the record as being opposed to many of these cuts. To ensure that there is enough time to compromise on the differences between the House and Senate, they will most likely need to pass a short-term extension of the current funding law or else risk a government shutdown on March 4.  While most believe that neither side wants a government shutdown, House leadership has signaled even a short-term extension would require cuts.

As Congress and the President continue to debate funding for the remainder of this fiscal year, a duplicate fight is beginning for both sides as the Budget Battle for FY 2012 gets underway.  Similar to the current funding negotiations, the House is looking to cut upwards of $100 billion out of the budget for next year.  Meanwhile, the President has released his budget which cuts spending in some areas of government, but then “reinvests” those funds as part of the Administration’s initiative to “Win the Future.”  These investments include: 

  • $148 billion for federal R&D overall and continues efforts to double investments in key basic research
  • Doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources (including solar) by 2035
  • Making the R&D tax credit permanent
  • Funding to prepare 100,000 new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers

While SEMI supports the White House efforts to invest in these programs, it remains to be seen if these provisions in the President’s budget will be able to pass through the House, which is now dominated by a majority who oppose any new government spending.

The SEMI Washington, D.C. office continues to work on these issues in support of its members.  If you have any questions regarding the federal government budget debate, or any other U.S. policy issues, please contact Jamie Girard (jgirard@semi.org), manager of public policy.


March 1, 2011